Pinyin: Zhèn běi tái
English: Suppress the north platform
Coordinates: 38°20'23"N 109°43'45"E
Zhenbeitai is a massive tower located near Yulin. It was built atop Mt. Hongshan (Red Mountain) and is situated within a vast stretch of the Great Wall which continues southwest towards Ningxia and northeast towards Shanxi.
Zhenbeitai is the largest tower along the entire Great Wall. It was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1607. Zhenbeitai was built for the protection of the local market place. Trade was an important component in suppressing, or pacifying, the north, hence the name Zhenbeitai.
The tower of Zhenbeitai measures about 75 by 58 meters (255 by 190 feet). It is 30 meters (98 feet) tall and has four levels. Each level is smaller than the one below it, creating a tapered shape. The lowest level is surrounded by a 5.5 meter (18 foot) inner wall and 10 meter (33 foot) outer wall. There is a stone tablet on the archway of the second floor which is inscribed with the characters Xiang Ming, meaning Facing the Brightness.
Zhenbeitai is located in the southwest corner of a larger fortress which measures about 190 by 160 meters (625 by 525 feet).
To the north of Zhenbeitai, on the enemy side, is a large plain. The tower can be seen from this plain even at a great distance, and likewise, approaching enemy could be seen from this tower when they were still far away.
Zhenbeitai is often said to be roughly at the center of the main line of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall which lies between Shanhaiguan in Hebei Province in the east and Jiayuguan in Gansu province in the west. Thru-hikers sometimes treat Zhenbeitai as their halfway point. This may make sense with respect to distance, but due to the more mountainous regions to the east as compared with the flatter regions to the west, eastbound thru-hikers should not deceive themselves with regard to effort.
The house on top of the tower collapsed during the Qing Dynasty and was rebuilt around 1920 only to collapse again later. The entirety of Zhenbeitai, minus the house, has since been restored and is a reasonable representation of its original design.
About 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) southwest of Zhenbeitai is another famous scenic spot, the Hong Shi Xia (Red Rock Gorges). Here, impressive inscriptions are carved on the faces of the cliffs.
Location summary: Zhenbeitai is about 601 kilometers (374 miles) west of downtown Beijing. It is about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) north of Yulin.
Driving directions: From Yulin, drive north for about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) on the S204 Great Wall Middle Road to Zhenbeitai.